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CMA CGM Joins Global Efforts to Reduce Plastic Waste in the Oceans

reducing ocean plastic
CMA CGM Group will stop carrying plastic waste on its ships (CMA CGM file photo)

Published Feb 11, 2022 2:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

CMA CGM Group announced that it will stop transporting plastic waste on its ships as part of a broader effort to protect the health of the world’s oceans. The announcement came during the global One Ocean Summit in Brest, France where global leaders agreed to a range of projects and initiatives designed to reverse the decline in the health of the world’s oceans.

Attendees at the conference heard from scientists and leading experts on the issues threatening the world’s oceans. They reported that each year an estimated eight to ten million tons of plastic waste ends up in the world’s oceans. Experts forecasted that unless action is taken, the amount of plastic entering the oceans could triple over the next 20 years causing irreversible damage to marine ecosystems, fauna and flora.

Most of the plastics in the oceans the experts reported come from waste thrown on the ground or washed into rivers. They said that better wastewater treatment and stormwater management in many developing countries would stop some of the 1.5 million tons of microplastics that end up in the oceans every year. Fast population growth in many cities around the world is increasing plastic pollution.

Speaking at the summit, Rodolphe Saadé, Chairman and CEO of the CMA CGM Group, announced that his company would no longer be transporting any plastic waste aboard its ships. 
CMA CGM carried about 50,000 containers of plastic waste each year. He said the goal was to help protect the oceans and biodiversity. CMA CGM believes its steps will help prevent this type of waste from being exported to destinations where sorting, recycling, or recovery cannot be assured. He said the group was responding to the calls from NGOs for actions on ocean plastics with the ban on plastics effective as of June 1. 

At the same time during the summit, European financial institutions announced plans to double their funding and accelerate the time of efforts for the Clean Ocean Initiative. The initiative identifies projects that decrease the release of plastic waste in rivers, seas, and on land globally, with a particular focus on rivers and coastal areas in the most polluting countries located mainly in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. A significant amount of plastic waste enters the oceans from the ten major river systems located in these continents, which lack access to regular waste collection and controlled waste disposal systems, as well as adequate wastewater and stormwater management systems.

The new agreement, led by the Agence Française de Développement, the European Investment Bank, and KfW acting on behalf of the German Federal Government, targets providing €4 billion ($4.5 billion) of financing by the end of 2025, instead of the previous commitment for €2 billion ($2.3 billion) initially expected to be reached by 2023. Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, the Italian National Promotional Institution and Financial Institution for Development Cooperation, and ICO, the Spanish Promotional Bank are also involved and they welcomed the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) as a new member.

The Clean Oceans Initiative is the largest common initiative dedicated to funding projects aimed at reducing plastic pollution at sea. In three years, the Initiative has already achieved 80 percent of its target by providing €1.6 billion ($1.8 billion) in long-term financing for public and private sector projects that reduce the discharge of plastics, microplastics, and other litter to the oceans through improved management of solid waste, wastewater, and stormwater. Projects include improved wastewater treatment, solid waste management, stormwater management, and flood protection. According to the organizers, a significant amount of plastic waste enters the oceans from the ten major river systems located in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, which lack access to regular waste collection and controlled waste disposal systems, as well as adequate wastewater and stormwater management systems.

These efforts are parallel to the European Union which has set priorities to decrease plastic pollution and accelerate the move from plastics to more environmentally-friendly materials. The EU has a single use plastics directive that sets rules for the phasing out of plastic and for the collection of fishing gear lost in the oceans. The EU is also advocating for international agreements on plastics and seeking to establish a committee at the UN Environmental Assembly to address the problems of marine litter.